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What Caused The Colgan Air Crash?

What Caused The Colgan Air Crash?

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Colgan Air Saab 340B (N203CJ) at Washington Dulles International Airport, picture source: Choster 

Colgan Air was a family run airline that operated with continual safety issues. Furthermore, Colgan was not operated at the same level of safety & flight integrity as other commuter airlines. Such as a Cape Air or Great Lakes Airlines. Further reading: Great Lakes Airlines : The Rise & Fall

Colgan Air was a regional airline based in Manassas, Virginia, that operated flights on behalf of several major airlines in the United States.

Colgan Air building at Manassas Regional Airport. 10667 Wakeman Drive, Manassas, Virginia USA picture source: Hbrackett

The airline was founded in 1991 by the Colgan family and began operating as a commuter airline, primarily serving the Northeastern United States.

Over time, Colgan Air expanded its operations and fleet, and in 2007, it was acquired by Pinnacle Airlines Corp., a regional airline holding company. Under Pinnacle’s ownership, Colgan Air continued to operate as a regional airline, operating flights for major airlines such as United Airlines, US Airways, and Continental Airlines.

The airline operated a fleet of Bombardier Dash 8 and Saab 340 turboprop aircraft, which were used to serve smaller cities and regional airports that were not directly served by the major airlines. Colgan Air’s main hub was located at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it operated a significant number of flights for Continental Airlines.

The airline would become forever defined by one crash in upstate New York.

The Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed on February 12, 2009, in Clarence Center, New York, killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash and identified several factors that contributed to the accident.

According to the NTSB, the primary cause of the accident was the flight crew’s failure to respond properly to the airplane’s stall warnings.

The captain, who was the pilot flying the airplane, responded incorrectly to the stick shaker stall warning, which was caused by the airplane’s low airspeed and high angle of attack. Instead of reducing the airplane’s angle of attack and increasing the airspeed, the captain pulled back on the control column, exacerbating the stall and causing the airplane to roll to the left.

Last words from the cockpit of Flight 3407:

10:10:32 p.m. – First Officer Rebecca Shaw: Oh yeah, oh, it’s lots of ice.

10:10:47 – Captain Marvin Renslow: Oh yeah, that’s the most I’ve seen, most ice I’ve seen on the leading edges in a long time. In a while, anyway, I should say.

10:10:57 – Shaw: Flying in the Northeast, I’ve 1,600 hours. … I had more actual time on my first day of IOE (initial operating experience) than I did in the 1,600 hours I had when I came here.

10:11:31 – Renslow: But, uh, as a matter of fact I got hired with about 625 hours here.

10:11:37 – Shaw: Oh wow.

10:11:39 – Shaw: That’s not much for, uh, back when you got hired.

10:11:42 – Renslow: No but, uh, out of that … 250 hours was, uh, part 121 turbine, multi-engine turbine.

10:11:50 – Shaw: Oh that’s right yeah.


10:12:05 – Shaw: I’ve never seen icing conditions. I’ve never deiced. … I’ve never experienced any of that. I don’t want to have to experience that and make those kinds of calls. You know I’d’ve freaked out. I’d have, like, seen this much ice and thought, oh my gosh we were going to crash.

US Airways : Confusion on the Runway

10:13:58 – Renslow: Oh yeah, I’m so glad. … I mean, I would’ve been … fine. I would have survived it. .. We never had to make decisions that I wouldn’t have been able to make but … now I’m more comfortable.

10:15:59 –  (Sound similar to decrease in engine power)

10:16:04 – Renslow: Gear down… loc’s alive.

10:16:06 – (Sound similar to landing gear handle movement)

10:16:06 – Buffalo Approach controller: Colgan thirty four zero seven contact tower one two zero point five. have a good night.

10:16:07 – (Sound similar to landing gear deployment)

10:16:11 – Shaw: Over to tower you do the same, 3407.

10:16:14 –  (Sound of two double chimes)

10:16:21 – Shaw: Gear’s down.

10:16:23 – Renslow: Flaps fifteen before landing checklist.

10:16:26 –  (Sound similar to flap handle movement)

10:16:26 – Shaw: uhhh.

10:16:27 – (Sound similar to stick shaker — a stall warning — lasting 6.7 seconds)

Concorde Crash : Death of an Aviation Dream

10:16:27 –  (Sound similar to autopilot disconnect horn repeats until end of recording)

10:16:27 – (Sound of click)

10:16:31 – (Sound similar to increase in engine power)

10:16:34 – Renslow: Jesus Christ!

10:16:35 –  (Sound similar to stick shaker lasting until end of recording)

10:16:37 – Shaw: I put the flaps up.

10:16:40 – (Sound of two clicks)

10:16:42 – Renslow: (sound of grunt) (unintelligible) -ther bear.

10:16:45 – Shaw: Should the gear up?

10:16:46 – Renslow: Gear up. Oh (expletive).

10:16:51.9 – Renslow: We’re down.

10:16:51.9 – (sound of thump)

10:16:52.0 -Shaw: We’re (sound of scream).

Crash site of Flight 3407
Crash site of Flight 3407, showing the vertical empennage near a house

The NTSB also identified several contributing factors to the accident.

Including the captain’s inadequate training, the first officer’s lack of experience, and the airline’s inadequate procedures for evaluating and addressing pilot performance issues. The NTSB also noted that the flight crew was fatigued, which may have impaired their performance.

The accident led to several changes in aviation regulations and procedures, including new rules for pilot training and rest requirements, enhanced pilot monitoring procedures, and improved pilot performance evaluation programs.

FAA ILS/LOC approach plate to runway 23 at Buffalo Niagara International Airport (KBUF). The flight crashed (marked in red) near the locator outer marker (LOM) (identifier: “KLUMP”) about five nautical miles from the threshold of Rwy 23.

Most importantly, it served as the catalyst for the FAA’s new 1500 hour minimum.

Which actually didn’t make a difference in the Colgan Air crash since both pilots had ample experience. They were just incompetent. The captain had two safety infractions. At any respectable airline, you have a safety infraction, and you are barred from the parking lot. Colgan became considered by many to be a “slum lord” operator. Even after the acquisition by Pinnacle. Nothing changed at the airline.

After the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in 2009, which Colgan operated on behalf of Continental Airlines, the airline faced increased scrutiny and negative publicity.

In conclusion, in 2012, Pinnacle Airlines Corp. filed for bankruptcy, and Colgan Air ceased operations shortly thereafter. Lastly, the airline’s assets and operations became subsequently sold to other regional airlines.

Barack Obama shakes hands with Beverly Eckert during a meeting in Washington, D.C. At the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with a group who lost family members in the 9/11. In addition the U.S.S. Cole tragedies. Lastly, Beverly Eckert died the following week in the Continental Airlines Flight 3407 crash near Buffalo.

For further reading: When did Great Lakes Airlines go out of business?

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What Caused The Colgan Air Crash?